Environmental sustainability and the carbon emissions of pharmaceuticals

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The US healthcare industry emits an estimated 479 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year; nearly 8% of the country's total emissions. When assessed by sector, hospital care, clinical services, medical structures, and pharmaceuticals are the top emitters. For 15 years, research has been dedicated to the medical structures and equipment that contribute to carbon emissions. More recently, hospital care and clinical services have been examined. However, the carbon of pharmaceuticals is understudied. This article will focus on the carbon emissions of pharmaceuticals since they are consistently calculated to be among the top contributors to healthcare carbon and assess the factors that contribute to pharmaceutical carbon emissions. Specifically, overprescription, pharmaceutical waste, antibiotic resistance, routine prescriptions, non-adherence, drug dependency, lifestyle prescriptions, and drugs given due to a lack of preventive healthcare will be identified. Prescribing practices have environmental ramifications. Carbon reduction, when focused on pharmaceuticals, can lead to cleaner, more sustainable healthcare.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Medical Ethics
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • drugs and drug industry
  • environmental Ethics
  • ethics
  • public health ethics


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